Last Friday's gig at the Poor House was touted in various e-mails and on websites as the "last Holy Terrors show in a while." The band's website (www.theholyterrors.com) declared "check them out for what, quite possibly, could be your last chance to catch the Terrors for a long time."
Forget the nouveau rock troubadours and the scruffy, vulnerable singer-songwriters flooding the airwaves; for 14 years, the Terrors have stormed through the bumpy terrain of the South Florida music scene, grabbing converts at every venue -- from Fort Lauderdale's the Edge to the Billabong Pub in Hallandale Beach. Few bands 'round these parts could have survived the '90s and still pack a local venue in '04. The Terrors recently released This Is What It Sounds Like When You're Dead, a retrospective of live, new, and previously unreleased tracks. As obtuse as that title sounds, it couldn't be more fitting for a band that's as loud, abstract, bottom-heavy, loud, angular, raucous, poppy, and loud as the Holy Terrors. Did we mention they're loud?
The Poor House was flooded with friends and fans, and the smell of sweat and booze perfumed the air as the Terrors worked through new and old songs. One fan's battle cry ("Reagan's finally in the ground, time to rock!") seemed perfect to me: The Terrors' sound recalls the pissed-off posturing of anti-Reaganites like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, bands that rammed muscle-spasm sounds into the jaw of urban boredom and pessimism.
Singer Rob Elba's sandpaper screams did nothing to soothe the besotted crowd, and the trinity of guitarist Dan Hosker, bassist Will Trev, and drummer Mike Bocsusis made sure the frothing throng knew it was time to get on its knees and pray for the rock gods to spare its eardrums. The set ended abruptly, like a quickie in a bathroom stall with a stranger.
Asked if this was really their "last show," a sweat-soaked Elba paused and said "Eh... who knows? It was fun, though, wasn't it?" Indeed. Whether he's talking about tonight or the past 14 years, only he knows.
About 6 p.m. Sunday, farther south in the 954, a new breed of punks assaulted eardrums. A young man dipped his hand into a gallon plastic trash can full of Red Stripe. Near the trash can, on a marble table top, sat a small cardboard box with some dollar bills inside that read: "We want to stay open -- help us pay the electric bill." The walls were plastered with NOFX and Screeching Weasel stickers, and the bathroom door was adorned with a sign that warned "Guys must piss outside."
Down a long, narrow hallway was a stage where Fort Lauderdale's own AC Cobra tore through its set. Lead screamer Tim Moffatt spewed beer onto the crowd, and the crowd spit beer back at him. He tormented his microphone with guttural wails as drummer Chris Maggio beat his kit like an octopus on a speed bender. A petite girl in a baseball cap grabbed a guy and shoved his head into the freezing water of the beer bucket. But he didn't care. Like Friday's show at the Poor House, we were all sweatin' like whores in church.
This was the Pitt, a small venue/rehearsal space behind the old Button South, hidden in a row of nondescript warehouses off Hallandale Beach Boulevard. Twenty-four-year-old Mike Hooker, the owner of the space, the show's promoter, and creator of the local punk music 'zine Dead Beat, has has been throwing shows at this space for about a month.
On Sunday, the crowd got free Red Stripe (thanks to a friend with a hookup), free water, and a free show from AC Cobra, Beep, and We Are Scissors. "I built the stage; I built the bar," Hooker said. "I'm not planning on making money here. The donation box is to help out with the electric and the rent -- we gotta run those fans."
Hooker has shows lined up every weekend until September. "I can't handle the big clubs right now," he said. "This is my alternative, a place where people can meet."
AC Cobra bassist Tyson Griffin agreed. "I need heat, sweat, people moving," he says with a smile. "That's rock 'n' roll." Check out www.deadbeatzine.com for upcoming shows.